Friday, November 11, 2016

Guest Post: Steve Marsh on Alignment

As the completion of art and editing for Steve Marsh's Shattered Norns draws imminently closer, and its publication looms, and editor always has to face the unfortunate truth that there is just not a place for EVERYTHING you'd like to include in the book. In this case, the thing I'd like to include (but just seemed to feel forced in wherever I put it), is a small insight penned by Mr. Marsh regarding his introduction to Gary Gygax of the Good/Evil alignment axis (thereby creating the "dual-axis" alignment system introduced in AD&D), and how it relates to Steve's concept of chaos (i.e., "anarchy"). Steve also nods to 5th Edition's acknowledgement of abominations (outsiders/forces of entropy) as this is particularly relevant in his Shattered Norns world where abominations abound.

In addition to Steve's commentary, I've included a graphic I recently created, taking all of the components of the various alignment charts that exist, as well as the SRD alignment content, and merging them into a single "go to" reference graphic for alignment.

On Alignment – My approach to alignment
by Steve Marsh

The original alignment system was based off of the law/chaos axis of Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions more than anything else.

Chaos was feral rebellion, both the immoral and the amoral, and everything that tore down creation.

Law was the harmonizing and creative force that organizes, creates and preserves the world.

Using this law/chaos polar opposition as an express part of a gaming world was a conceptual breakthrough by Gary Gygax that allowed it to be a natural driver for all sorts of things in the game world. The system fit a dark ages world very well. It creates a natural conflict and aligns with good and evil directly on the law/chaos axis.

The system had two problems, though. First, too many gamers were much more familiar with Michael Moorcock’s use of law and chaos. Second, I wanted a different type of nuance.

This is why I proposed an order/anarchy system with the poles of good and evil on a different axis. Anarchy can have natural nobility (determined purely by personal charisma and power), and Law can have democracy. For a long time in my personal campaign I used Anarchy or Tychism (a philosophical school) in the place of Chaos in order to focus the point on what “chaos” was.

Eventually, Gary agreed with me and migrated the game world to a 2-axis system where the law/chaos axis crossed with good/evil axis. It allowed for things to be feral without them being necessarily evil (old school “chaos”). It also allowed for characters to distinguish between the amoral (where being without morals = neutral) and the immoral (where those who are doing wrong = evil).

One thing I like about 5th Edition is that it acknowledges abominations (those from outside; generally forces of entropy, normally classified as “evil”) that do not necessarily fit properly into the law/chaos structure. My campaign world (Shattered Norns) is marked by having been marred by a massive intrusion by an abomination that was repulsed. I used to use the term “chaos” to refer to it, which led to confusion. Part of what I like about the 5e “abomination” category is that I can use the term “abomination,” and be clearly understood across the game categories, while using the standard law/chaos terminology as well.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A day of gaming in Wacko, Texas?

Okay Texans, I want some feedback on this idea/plan...

The idea came up a while back to do a 1-day game meetup in Waco, so folks from Austin and DFW would only have a 90m drive in and home. And only slightly longer for Houston-ites and San Antonians.

Saturday January 14th,, 2017, 10am-10pm
Comfort Suites Waco North

I've looked into the following: getting the meeting room at the Comfort Suites Waco North. It would accommodate 6 tables w/ 8 players each. I'm looking at getting the room from 10am to 10pm (which should pretty much allow two 5-hour-ish gaming sessions for the day with a break between at mid afternoon).

They would also arrange a block of rooms at a discounted rate for Saturday night (they can't do a block for Friday because they have a baseball group that comes in weekly and leaves Saturday morning).

If 40 people committed at $10 each for the room (I would do something like Eventbrite, so there might be a small surcharge on that) we could get the room paid for.

Also, the hotel would have no problem with people brining in their own food. I looked at the possibility of bringing in food (from non-hotel source), but don't think it's financially worth it, but there are plenty of close-by places to eat.

And now Waco isn't so dry anymore. The hotel actually has a "bar" (beer/wine; doesn't normally open until 5pm, but if they knew we were interested, they could arrange to have it open as early as noon; I'm not sure how much earlier we could arrange than that).

Could possibly do a 2-day deal if there was enough interest (for an extra $10/person).


Monday, October 10, 2016

Today is 5 years minus 1 day. Tomorrow is 5 years.

I'll keep this short and sweet for now (as I hope for a longer post tomorrow morning).

Tomorrow (Tuesday October 11, 2016) is the 5-year anniversary of my very first post at this blog. And it is 5 years to the day... it was a Tuesday on the day I first blogged, and it is a Tuesday tomorrow.

In honor of this occasion, I will be running a crazy special at RPGNow. Starting at midnight tonight (Monday night at midnight), and running through tomorrow at midnight (Tuesday night at midnight), PDFs of the following titles will be on sale for $1 each (but only for the 24 hours that are Tuesday, October 11, 2016):
d30 DM Companion
d30 Sandbox Companion
Creature Compendium
Basic Psionics Handbook
Valley of the Five Fires

That means you can get all the major NBD titles for a total of $5! And, as a special bonus, Module PA1: Vault of the Faceless Giants will become free indefinitely.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Free PDF Download:
New BX Character Class - Half-orc

Almost a year ago, I mentioned that the Character Class Codex would include a half-orc, which I saw as a way "to fill in the BX need for an assassin (but using a race class to do it)."

This statement last year was not how I envisioned a BX half-orc, it was how I'd already written it. Yes. This class has existed for about a year, and I'm just sharing it now. That being said, I do believe I made this an option during my "Cold Fingers of Fate" game at NTRPGCon this past year (and IIRC, somebody actually played it; I just don't have my notes from the game handy to confirm).

Enough of my jibber-jabber. Onto that link...

Click here to download the
Half-ord character class PDF.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Really Old Old-school Artist: Austin Molloy
(aka Austin Ó Maolaoid, AóM)

Many of you may notice that the art of today's featured artist Austin Molloy (1886–1961) bears a striking resemblance to illustration legend Harry Clarke. So it may come as no surprise that Molloy was friends with Clarke; they met at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art (now named the National College of Art and Design) as students, then Molloy went on to teach there. Tell me the last image below doesn't reek of Harry Clarke.

Molloy (aka Austin Ó Maolaoid, AóM) had a pretty prolific career, serving An Gúm (The Scheme), a government initiative in Ireland started in 1925 to publish books in Irish, as his main client for many years. All the images below pre-date 1925, but many of them could have been done in the last 40 years by someone like Russ Nicholson (specifically the boy fighting the hound, or the Grummsh-looking mother-effer below it).

I can't remember exactly how I stumbled across his work, but I do know it was during a recent " expedition" (what I call those times I sit front of the TV with my feet up, my laptop in my lap, and I just keep poking around until I find something relevant-but-previously-undiscovered-by-me).


Monday, August 22, 2016

New Oe/1e/BX Monster: Ambler

This is something I drew a while back and shared on Google+ as an illustration only.
Now it's a fully-statted creature.

An ambler (a contraction of the words “armored” and shambler”) is an elemental creature created from the massive sphere of armor and weapons located at the center of the Demi-plane of Electro-magnetism. When one of these anomalies escape their home plane (e.g., ported in by a powerful magic-user), the ambler appears as a shambling mishmash of mismatched pieces of armor in a vaguely humanoid form with 1-4 usable limbs, each of which has a 75% chance of holding a small-to-medium weapon (hand axe, dagger, 1-handed sword, etc.).

Because producing an ambler requires it to be summoned (as opposed to being conjured from existing material), control of the ambler is not automatic, nor will it serve any creature (even its summoner), so it will not follow orders unless compelled to do so my some additional force (e.g., a charm or control spell). The ambler can understand any language that was possessed by the previous owner of any piece of armor used in its composition, or weapon it holds (usually this will include common, dwarvish and elvish, though it is not unheard of for this to also include halfling and orcish; other languages known are at the discretion of the DM but is suggested that there be a 90% chance of the ambler knowing any common language, 30% for any uncommon language, 10% for any rare language, and 1% for any very rare language, assuming the language in question is spoken by species that normally wears armor).

The electromagnetism in the ambler is so strong that should a successful melee strike be made against the ambler by a normal (i.e., non-magical) weapon made of a magnetic metal (e.g., steel or iron), there is a 50% chance that the weapon will become “stuck” to the ambler, and useless by the attacker.

Amblers are affected by protection from evil spells, and can be returned to their home plane by dispel magic, but can also be dealt with using extraplanar dismissal or banishment. If dismissed or banished, any weapon stuck to the ambler will be transported with it.

FREQUENCY: Very rare
MOVE: 6"
% IN LAIR: Nil
1-6 or by weapon
+1 or better
needed “to hit”
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

HIT DICE: 5-8*
MOVE: 60'(20')
DAMAGE: 1-6 or by weapon
SAVE AS: Fighter:5-8

Sunday, August 21, 2016

One Crazy Summer

Well, I haven't sailed in any regattas to save a singer's grandfather house, or been buried up to my neck on the beach beneath a guy in a folding chair eating chili, but it has been one crazy summer.

Nothing terribly bad, mind you, just a summer full of distractions. Just as summer began (you know, during the week of NTRPGCon), my wife quit one job, started a small re-sale business during June, then took a new job at the end of June. That meant a lot of furniture moving for me (3 carloads out of her old classroom, 3 carloads to the antique mall/mercantile space, and 2 carloads to her new classroom). July and August saw me dealing with a small, but annoying medical thing (just a small sore on my leg that is taking forever to heal properly which is eating up my schedule with trips to the wound care specialist). Not to mention a super-hectic workload all summer-long; in addition to a couple of sizable paying projects, I've been working with a couple of start-ups with a personal ownership stake. (In the 16 years I've been working for myself, I have never before contributed time to start-ups for two reasons: 1) I have heretofore not had faith in any of those proposed to me to be successful, and 2) the motto of all designers should be, "Fuck you. Pay me." However, the 2 start-ups in question are: 1) both being started by past clients who have brought me a lot of business/income, and 2) I do truthfully believe in the possibility of their success.)

So that brings me to the real point of this blog post... I'M BACK BITCHES!

My wife is back on a regular school-year schedule, which means I'm back on a regular schedule. I've already got three new blog posts loaded for the upcoming week, and Welbo and I are back full-force on the final preparations for Steve Marsh's Shattered Norns 5e book. And for those who've been waiting patiently, we'll soon be adding a batch of the Classic Edition GM Screen for sale on the New Big Dragon Storefront.

It's good to be back!